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8 Different Types of Jobs for Animators

Animator sketching on his tablet.

Animation is a fun and rewarding career path for anyone interested in art, design, or illustration. When you think of the word ‘animator,’ you may not think beyond an artist that creates cartoons or 3D models for film and television. But animation has a lot more to offer than what meets the eye.

Many different jobs are available within the animation industry. Types of jobs for animators include:

  1. Animator
  2. 3D Modeler
  3. Video Game Designer
  4. Key Animator
  5. Animation Director
  6. Storyboard Animator
  7. Character Animator
  8. Forensic Animator

If you’re interested in animation but aren’t sure which direction to take, our guide on some of the different types of jobs for animators could help you on your way to a long, successful – and fun – career in animation.

1. Animator

Animator designer sketching a character.

Professional artists who sketch and design for the entertainment sector are known as animators. An animator can work in various mediums, including cinema, television, electronic games, social networks, and marketing content such as advertising.

Animators generally collaborate with producers, directors, designers, artists, and writers to develop certain characters and backdrops for animated films.

After deciding on the character’s personality traits, the scenes color scheme, and other plot narratives, an animator will use certain computer software like Adobe After Effects, Autodesk3ds Max, Adobe Premiere, and Autodesk Maya to help their characters come to life.

Animators may even carry out research for potential projects to assist in the creation of lifelike design ideas or animation, modify animation and effects in response to feedback from supervisors, other animators, game developers, or clients.

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They can also meet with some of these staff members, including actors, to discuss the project’s development and its deadlines.

Animator Qualifications

If you want to become an animator, you could follow a few different paths. For an entry-level position, you will only need a bachelor’s degree, although some experience through internships or other similar positions would be advantageous.

Some of the different bachelor’s degrees that you can choose from include:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Animation
  • BS in Animation/Illustration
  • BS in Animation & Digital Art
  • BS in Media Arts & Animation
  • BS in Computer Animation
  • BS in Computer Graphics
  • BS in Media Arts & Science

For a mid-level animator position, you will need a bachelor’s degree, around 2 to 5 years of experience working in the industry, and advanced knowledge of technology.

Senior animator positions require you to have at least 5 to 7 years of experience in the industry, and some may even require you to have an advanced degree before you are considered for the position.

How Much Do Animators Make?

Multimedia artists and animators earn an average yearly salary of around $72,000. The bottom 10% of earners earn below $40,000, while the top 10% earn upwards of $124,000 per year. Multimedia artists and animators employed in the motion picture and video sectors earn the highest yearly income of around $86,000 per annum.

It’s worth noting that compensation for graphic artists and animators varies depending on their level of experience, the nature and size of the company they work for, and even their location. Animators in Connecticut, for example, typically earn around $102,000 per year, making them the highest-earning animators in the country, while artists in South Carolina earn an average of around $36,000 per year, which is the lowest in the country.

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2. 3D Modelers

Animator creating 3D aircraft model for a video game.

3D modelers create three-dimensional figures, backgrounds, and settings based on original artwork. To do this, modelers paint and wrap two-dimensional images or patterns over a digital mesh to produce a character’s body or skin.

3D modelers also create skeletons for various characters, which are controlled and given motion and movement by animators. Modeling is done with various software, including 3DS Max, POV-Ray, Maya, and many others.

3D modelers develop these characters and environments for various media types, including video games, animated movies, and can even create images for graphic designs, film effects, and simulations.

Some modelers may even work with scientists, architects, and healthcare organizations to develop images and models related to these fields.

3D Modeler Qualifications

To become a 3D modeler, you will need some sort of advanced mathematical and computer abilities. Depending on where you work, you may also need additional abilities like creativity and design skills or strong scientific foundations.

No matter which major or minor you choose, you will need to concentrate on the skills required for your desired career. For example, if you want to become a 3D modeler for video game design, a background in game design may come in handy.

Some subjects that may help you to secure a career in 3D modeling include:

  • Computer Science
  • Computer Games Development
  • Digital Illustration
  • Digital Design
  • Game Programming
  • Game Design
  • Graphic Design
  • 3D Modeling
  • Animation
  • Visual Effects

While these are just some of the majors and minors that can help you on the path to becoming a 3D modeler, you can choose almost any subject that is related to your desired field.

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How Much Does a 3D Modeler Make?

3D modelers earn roughly $68,500 per year; however, individual incomes vary widely by firm, location, expertise, and education.

For example, a 3D modeler at DreamWorks Animation in California or Blue-Sky Studios, a Twentieth Century Fox Film partner in Connecticut, may earn up to $100,000 per year. A 3D Modeler working for a smaller company, however, could make between $40,000 and $48,000 per year.

3. Video Game Designer

Video game designers developing a game.

All video games start with an idea. This concept is developed and brought to life by video game creators or designers through experimenting with character designs and gameplay. However it’s important to note that video game designers often concentrate on a specific area of gameplay, depending on their skills.

Video game designers can use their knowledge of mathematics, design, technology, science, and animation to produce the latest games for various consoles.

They should also be able to develop code in various programming languages, test early versions of games to check for bugs, glitches, or changes to improve gameplay, and manage the project’s development.

Video Game Designer Qualifications

To secure a position as a video game designer, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or higher in areas closely related to the field, including:

  • Game Design
  • Game Development
  • Game Programming
  • Interactive Entertainment
  • Computer Science
  • Computer Animation
  • Software Development
  • Software Engineering

Employers may require a minimum of 2 years of experience for intermediate positions in addition to one of the above degrees. Employers may also often seek an advanced degree and 3 to 5 years of professional experience in the industry for upper-level roles.

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If you are looking for an entry-level position, a degree and experience gained through an internship or other support work may be appropriate.

How Much Does a Video Game Designer Make?

The top-earning applications software engineers earn an average of $161,000 per year, while the lowest-earning employees earn less than $61,500 per year.

Individual salaries vary depending on the area, sector, firm type and scale, and a variety of other criteria, including whether the game designer is paid by a company or self-employed. Independent application software engineers, for example, are among the highest-earning specialists in the field, with some designers earning an average of $271,000 per year.

4. Key Animator

Key animator working on a green screen.

Some animators may graduate to a senior-level role as a key or senior animator, although this promotion is only considered after working as an animator for at least 3 years. A key animator is a stepping stone to becoming an animation director.

Although a key animator has a higher rank than an animator, a fair amount of creative labor and administration are still required for the role.

Senior animators are generally involved in assisting production by developing characters and guiding junior staff members or animators through the pre-production process. They also oversee pre-production by deciding how the animation will be carried out and by collaborating with riggers and model makers to ensure that the required models are appropriately rigged for action scenes.

Once pre-production is completed, and production begins, the key animator assists in managing the entire production by collaborating with the director to ensure that the project is completed on time and within a certain budget.

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Key Animator Qualifications

The way to becoming a key animator is dependent on choosing the right degree. Degrees that can help you on this career path include:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Animation
  • BS in Animation & Digital Arts
  • BS in Media Arts
  • BS in Computer Animation
  • BS in Fine Art
  • BS in Computer Graphics

While some key animators are happy to stay in their roles, many key animators aspire to become animation directors. To fast-track this promotion, you may find that having an additional minor in a business-related subject could be advantageous.

Employers look for at least 3 years of experience and strong technical abilities in addition to a minimum four-year degree to consider a candidate for a key or senior animator position.

Many major studios, on the other hand, prefer individuals with 5 to 7 years of industry experience, business management, strong leadership abilities, and even an advanced degree.

How Much Does a Key Animator Make?

Animators earn an average yearly salary of around $72,500. The lowest median wage in the animation industry is earned by less than 10% of animators and is around $41,000 per year. The top ten percent earn more than $124,000 each year. Because the position of a key animator is an advanced post, specialists in this sector will earn a higher salary than other animators.

Key animators that are employed in the film and video sectors earn the highest yearly income at around $86,000.

5. Animation Director

Animation director working in a studio.

Animation directors are individuals that are in charge of assembling and coordinating animation teams for various projects. During the production of the project, they usually head the animation team from start to finish.

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Most animation directors have years of experience in the industry as artists or animators. Because of their extensive experience and background, animation directors are in high demand in the entertainment sector.

Animation directors work closely with the project’s director and collaborates with them by using the director’s briefs to advise and lead their team throughout production. On longer projects, they may report directly to the production department for updates regarding the project’s schedule, budget, and the animation team’s overall output.

Animation Director Qualifications

One of the most prestigious titles in the animation industry is that of an animation director. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in animation, cinema, or a similar field, as well as talent, creativity, and managerial skills, are usually required to secure this position. It isn’t enough to have the right degree and managerial skills, though.

Before becoming eligible for this post, animation directors typically have a minimum of 5 to 7 years of experience in the animation field.

Because animators on the way to becoming animation directors must be familiar with the operations of all departments, they will likely undertake responsibilities in all of the departments involved in a project’s production.

How Much Does an Animation Director Make?

Animation directors earn a median yearly salary of around $72,000. The bottom ten percent earn less than $34,000 annually, while the top ten percent earn more than $163,500.

It’s important to keep in mind that salaries vary a lot depending on the business, the region, and even the job title. For example, among the top five industries for this career, autonomous animation directors earn the second-largest yearly compensation.

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These animators can earn an average of around $118,000 per year, with some directors in both New York City and California getting the highest incomes in the profession at around $115,000 annually.

6. Storyboard Artist

Storyboard artist sketching storyboards.

Storyboard artists create storyboards for animated films, TV commercials, and other media advertising, as well as music videos and interactive media. After a concept or storyline has been created, the storyboard artist begins designing the storyboard.

The storyboard depicts the “action” in a succession of scenes so that directors, marketers, and producers can assess the project before it goes into production. During production, storyboards are often used to provide direction.

Scenes are drawn by hand or on a computer by storyboard artists. They will either draw or use a computer to create black-and-white or full-color storyboards.

Storyboard artists usually collaborate with project executives, directors, and the production crew from beginning to end, sketching sequences during early meetings and editing or removing scenes as the movie develops.

Storyboard artists have a wide range of job prospects. Storyboard artists have several opportunities outside of the entertainment industry because they are considered fine artists.

Storyboard artists can work in a variety of settings, including animation studios, production companies, game development studios, broadcasting studios, and marketing firms.

Storyboard Artist Qualifications

Many companies aim to employ storyboard artists who have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of the following fields:

  • Art
  • Fine Art
  • Illustration
  • Digital Art
  • Painting
  • Drawing

It’s also a plus if you have some prior experience. An internship or entry-level work can help aspiring storyboard artists get valuable work experience. Some entry-level employment may be available for storyboard artists with outstanding talent but limited professional training.

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How Much Does a Storyboard Artist Make?

Individuals employed in the Fine Arts sector earn a median annual salary of around $49,000. The bottom ten percent make less than $22,000, while the top ten percent make more than $101,000.

Animators can earn an average of around $72,500 per year as storyboard artists in the animation sector. The bottom ten percent may earn less than $41,000, while the top ten percent can make upwards of $124,000.

In the animation industry, storyboard artists can expect to be paid a salary that ranges between a fine artist and an animator.

7. Character Animator

Character animators coworking on creation of new character.

Character animators use animation tools, 3D modeling, 2D animation, and even puppets to create and develop characters. Whether for cinema, television, electronic games, or mobile apps, these creative experts create characters who employ movement to create a narrative.

Character animators use computer software such as Flash Professional, Maya, MotionBuilder 3D, LightWave, and other tools to create and manage animated characters that exist within digital surroundings.

They also generate storyboards, models, and environment designs. Character animators collaborate with sound engineers to ensure that movement and sound are in sync, as well as with clients to present ideas and build concepts.

Character animators work for software publishers, electronic systems design companies, graphic design studios, video game design companies, professional web design firms, as well as film and media production studios, and marketing companies.

Character Animator Qualifications

Employers will give preference to character animators with a bachelor’s degree from a recognized school in animation, graphic design, fine arts, or a similar discipline.

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A master’s degree is a possibility for animators who want to grow in their careers. Character animators who demonstrate excellent collaboration and time-management capabilities can progress to supervisory roles, where they are in charge of one facet of a visual effects team.

Some artists may graduate to positions of leadership or direction, such as artistic director, director, or even producer.

How Much Does a Character Animator Make?

Artists in the animation industry and character animators earn a median yearly salary of around $72,500. This is around double the national average, and some of the most well-paid animators can even earn up to $124,000 per year. Some of the lowest-paid character animators can still earn between $41,000 to $54,000 per year.

8. Forensic Animator

Animation of DNA Strand molecule.

Within the animation field, forensic animation is an exciting and unique specialty. Rather than generating animations for computer games, movies, or TV, forensic animators replicate crime scenes or criminal events to aid authorities in the production of evidence and the resolution of crimes.

Many forensic animators have a scientific, legal, or criminology background in addition to an animation background.

To reproduce incidents, accidents, attacks, murders, as well as other crimes, forensic animators employ full-motion computer animation.

They are able to animate figures, composite simulations, capture visuals, apply video surveillance and matching techniques, make physical or digital copies of finalized animations, develop graphics and court evidence, and use photographs to extract three-dimensional information.

To create an animated representation of any particular incident, forensic animators must first work with eyewitness accounts, law enforcement officers, forensic investigators, or scientists, among others, to create a set of video images. These video images are used as the basis for the animated reproduction of the event.

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Forensic animators often work closely with law enforcement departments, investigative agencies, insurance firms, prosecutors, federal agencies, medical research facilities, and science labs.

Several forensic animators are also self-employed, which allows them to work for a variety of organizations at once.

Forensic Animator Qualifications

The lowest educational qualification for forensic animator positions is a bachelor’s degree. Many employers, however, favor a master’s degree combined with two or more years of industry experience.

Common degree paths include:

  • Animation
  • Illustration
  • Computer animation
  • Criminal Justice

Forensic animators should ensure that they have a good mix of minors and majors from both the animation and forensic or criminal justice sectors. These animators also usually have a mathematics and science background, with expertise in 3D modeling, programming knowledge, and animation.

How Much Does a Forensic Animator Make?

Forensic animators earn between $92,000 and $100,000 per year. Freelance forensic animators may charge between $20 and $100 per hour, dependent on their level of expertise and experience in the industry. So, If a freelance forensic animator is fortunate enough to work a full-time schedule on a consistent basis, their annual pay could exceed $200,000.

Conclusion

While there are tons of jobs available for animators, we have picked out some of the most interesting and unique jobs that the animation industry has to offer. Animators are often well-paid and provide individuals with the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder with the right experience.

References:

Twine: 7 Types of Jobs for Animators (And Where To Find Them)

New York Film Academy: Jobs in Animation: Career Paths

ScreenSkills: Animation

BestColleges: Animation Careers

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